One day in late January, Haskayne professor Mohammad Keyhani woke up to find out he was Internet famous.
A ZEEF webpage called Entrepreneur Tools he had created for students in his Entrepreneurship and Innovation 381 course was suddenly getting thousands of page views a day. Overnight, he was getting inquiries from around the world and people were tweeting about the page in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.
The page, which features a list of hundreds of useful online tools and resources for new entrepreneurs, had been posted to Product Hunt, an online community of technology enthusiasts eager to discover and share news about the best new products. Entrepreneur Tools was upvoted nearly 1,000 times, placing it among the most highly ranked products ever hunted on Product Hunt.
“When I started Entrepreneur Tools, it had about 500 page views over two weeks, mainly from my students who were using it in class,” says Keyhani. “All of a sudden, it was up to 20,000.”
Lots of online DIY tools available for new businesses
Keyhani says many people who are starting a business don’t realize just how many online tools are now available to them these days and thinks his list can help change that perspective. There are apps or online resources for everything from developing a logo, writing a business plan, building a prototype, getting customer feedback, getting website analytics to managing meetings, team collaboration, investor relations and social media.
He argues that today’s entrepreneurs have more tools at their fingertips than ever before, but still there is a persistent belief that new business owners have to go to experts or consultants for relatively easy tasks like starting a company website.
“There are so many tools that will make your life so much easier if you know they exist,” he says. “I want to make the point that you can start a business for cheaper than you think, and faster than you think.”
According to a recent story in the Globe and Mail, interest in entrepreneurship is particularly high right now in Calgary during this economic downturn as people who have been laid off are more likely to start their own businesses. Starting any new business venture is already a daunting task, and a list of recommended tools makes that task seem more manageable.
Entrepreneur Tools a one-stop shop for start-ups
Kim Neutens, director of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, said the tool consolidates the information that entrepreneurs need in one place.
“It’s an amazing tool for students in support of their education in entrepreneurship, but also for anyone who is looking to turn an opportunity into a reality. Think of it as a one-stop-shop to build a business – any kind of business,” said Neutens.
Students at the Haskayne School of Business and throughout the university are getting leading-edge opportunities to create new business ideas with impact every day– whether it be through app development, Internet-based businesses or bricks and mortar ventures. Entrepreneurship Tools is one example of the support available on campus.
“At the Hunter Centre, we’re looking to help inspire and educate the next generation of entrepreneurs. It is wonderful to see the worldwide attention this list has received,” said Neutens.
The centre has already negotiated free use for University of Calgary students of PencilCase, an app-building and prototyping software from Calgary-based company Robots & Pencils, and will look to get more of the Entrepreneur Tools available to students at discounted rates.
Keyhani said he’s been keeping an updated list of valuable entrepreneurship tools and resources for his students since arriving at Haskayne in 2013. He created the ZEEF page to share with his students but since it exploded in popularity he is now fielding requests from tech companies around the world to be added to his list. In the first day, he spent eight hours reviewing requests from about 200 companies who were suggested by users around the world to be included on the list.
Site continues to be updated with new resources from around the world
“Much of the value of these types of lists comes from the fact that anybody can suggest additions, which allows us to leverage the wisdom of the crowd,” says Keyhani. “But this also requires very careful curation on my part.”
To be included, Keyhani says the tool has to be geared to bootstrapping start-ups and entrepreneurs, which means they should be cheap or free and preferably require no technical coding skills.
“Despite there being so many lists out there, people have found this one helpful,” says Keyhani. “I’m really excited to see it take off like this. It is validation that what I made for my students in Calgary has world-class quality.”